It happens. What you’d been hoping for, praying for, and in some cases even planning for, has resulted in disappointment. And if you’ve had a string of those lately, it can sting even more.
When we don’t get what we had hoped for, it’s natural to become angry, bitter, or even jealous of others who have what we wish we did. But how you handle disappointment not only shows where your hope lies, but Whom you live for. And handling disappointment in a healthy way provides a model for others close to you in how they can handle their disappointment, as well.
Before you vent verbally or online about how life stinks and prayer doesn’t work, consider these five ways to handle disappointment in a healthy and spiritually mature way:
- Realize God has your eternal best in mind.
We tend to think we know what’s best for us – a ministry position, a potential spouse who loves the Lord, a job in a secular company where we can be a witness, a house that appears to be in the perfect location. Yet, God is sovereign over all situations and He can see the entire story of our lives. He knows what’s eternally best for you, not just temporarily good or satisfying.
Matthew 7:11 (NASB) affirms us that God is a good Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children: “If you, despite being sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
Trust God’s view of what’s good for you. Psalm 18:30 tells us all His ways are perfect.
2. Remember God’s “no” may be His way of protecting you.
Didn’t get the job? Overlooked for the promotion? Experienced a hurtful breakup? Any number of circumstances we had put our hopes in can cause feelings of devastation when they don’t turn out like we had hoped. But could God be protecting you from something you might not see? Absolutely.
Sometimes our disappointments are God’s protection and blessings in disguise. It just may take us a while (if ever) to realize it. Remember, the secret packed into Psalm 84:11: “No good thing will He withhold from those that walk uprightly.” If you’re praying for a good thing, and your heart is right, what you’re praying for either isn’t really good for you, or it isn’t time.
- Reconsider the disappointment as a reason for praise.
Disappointments aren’t something we are naturally thankful for. Yet, as we grow in Christlikeness and mature in the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), we will turn those disappointments into opportunities to praise God in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
You actually have a chance to practice God’s will and BE the manifestation of His will when you thank and praise Him during your disappointments and discouragements. Anyone can say “thank God” when they are happy and receive something good. (Even Hollywood celebrities who show no faith in God in their daily actions will still thank God publicly when collecting their Oscar – or at least they used to). But the true test of our character and depth of our faith is when we can praise and thank God when we didn’t get what we wanted. That is standing apart from the crowd, shining light out of what some may consider darkness. That is acknowledging that God is wise, and God is good – all the time.
- Rejoice with the one who received what you wanted.
Do you know what it’s like to want a job or a promotion, and see your friend or coworker get it instead? Can you relate to wanting a baby and hearing a friend announce the joyful news that she’s pregnant again? What about longing to be married for the first time and your friend or acquaintance is now planning her second or third wedding? Our disappointments seem to deepen when we see someone else experiencing what we had hoped would be ours. And yet, Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” You might not feel like it, but when you make the effort to extend toward someone else who has received what you had wanted so badly or felt that you deserved, it changes your heart. It matures you as a person. It may even deepen a friendship or acquaintance.
Start by praying for that person who received what you wanted. And pray for yourself, too – not by complaining, “God, why did you give it to them?” but by praising Him with: “Thank You, God, for blessing them and grow me through this disappointment so that I will one day be ready for a blessing like this, too.”
- Recount your blessings daily.
This will help you keep a perspective of praise and not become a downer who dwells on your disappointment. Rather than feeling entitled or embittered, seek to be a person of encouragement who constantly recognizes you have more than you ever should’ve had and He’s a good God who has been generous with you. As you learn how to grow and flourish in the midst of disappointment you may end up being the person others come to when they’re disappointed and need a shoulder to cry on or an improved perspective so they can flourish in their season of disappointment as you have.
Harness all that you’ve learned through your disappointments and offer it to God as something you can use to encourage others and help them through their disappointments as well. As you do, you will be living out the principle of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB) which tells us: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (or disappointment) so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”